GIVEN he has played nearly 350 games for Hull FC and been one of the first names on their team-sheet for more than a decade, Kirk Yeaman has understandably found it “tough” being on the periphery during the start of this season.
The former Great Britain international knew life was going to be difficult before the campaign kicked off when he lost his No 4 jersey to impressive youngster Jack Logan, was handed No 24 instead and Carlos Tuimavave, the Kiwi signing from the NRL, was earmarked as Lee Radford’s other centre.
And so it proved, Yeaman’s only sparse action initially was two games on dual-registration with Doncaster, firstly in an iPro Cup game against North Wales Crusaders and then a try-scoring appearance in the League 1 win over Gloucestershire All Golds.
It has all been a far cry from the likes of Challenge Cup finals – he was part of Hull’s famous 2005 side – Grand Finals and Sydney, where Yeaman featured in Great Britain’s last defeat of Australia in the 2006 Tri-Nations.
Nevertheless, the 32-year-old at last made a return to Hull’s first team on Friday night as he helped the East Yorkshire club end a three-match losing run by defeating Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 22-4 at KC Stadium.
With stand-off Leon Pryce recovering from minor knee surgery and teenage replacement Jordan Abdull badly ineffective in the previous shambolic 46-6 loss at Widnes Vikings, Radford opted to switch Tuimavave to the half-back role, opening up a space for Yeaman’s recall.
“It was good to be back out there again,” he said, having sat out the opening five fixtures.
“I was blowing a little at the end, but it was just good to be part of it once more with the boys and nice to get a win, too.
“Obviously, I’m not going to lie, it has been tough (not playing).
“I have been a regular for 15 years and sitting on the sidelines, it’s hard to watch as you do just want to be a part of it.
“But on the flip side the squad are all great boys and I want them to win and do well.
“It is tough watching, but I got my chance Friday and I thought I put a good solid performance in.
“It is a long season and there’s ups and downs.
“I got my chance against Wakefield and hopefully I’ll get another this week.”
Of course, ‘this week’ is also derby week with Hull heading to fierce rivals Hull KR on Good Friday.
The Tuimavave experiment worked – the former New Zealand Warrior set up two tries for Mark Minichiello and scored himself against Trinity – so there is no reason why Radford will not keep the same combinations for the short visit to east Hull.
Yeaman, who signed a one-year deal last September and has scored 169 tries for his hometown club since debuting in 2001, added: “We’ll see what Rads is going to go with during the week.
“But I’d like to think I’ve done enough to warrant another game.
“If I do, there’s nothing better than playing in a derby. Me, personally, I love my derbies so that would be great.”
Hull winger Curtis Naughton has agreed a new two-year contract. The former Bradford Bulls player was in the final season of his previous deal having joined from Sydney Roosters before the start of the last campaign.
Although yet to establish himself as a regular, Naughton has scored 10 tries in 14 appearances for Hull including one in Friday’s win over Wakefield, his first appearance of the season.
The 21-year-old hopes to retain his place for the Good Friday derby at Hull KR and head coach Radford said: “I’m really pleased; I think he has a great long-term future at the club.
“There was interest in him from elsewhere but the fact he wanted to stay is a credit to the group and a credit to Hull FC.”